by Vibhas Tatu
Burj Khalifa – From the top of the world
When the global financial crisis reached Dubai, it made headlines around the world. But for much of this new century Dubai has been recognized as a happening place on the world map. Now, with the glitzy christening of the Burj Khalifa tower, the world’s tallest building, talk about the debts and bailout funds from Abu Dhabi have again surfaced. There are whispered conversations and shoulder shrugs. The fact that a wonder of the world has just been born is lost in the gossiping grapevine.
Yet, from a grain of sand, people tend to conjure up a Sahara of speculation.
That which we call Burj Khalifa, by any other name, would still stand as tall. At a height of 828 meters (2716 feet) the newly inaugurated Burj Khalifa, is head, shoulders and torso above the next tallest man made structure in the world. With one hundred and sixty floors, 58 elevators and the highest observation deck in the world at the 124th storey (442 meters), it does scale new heights literally and figuratively. The term skyscraper seems inadequate so they’ve coined a new word: superscraper to describe this amazing feat of vision and engineering. It rises from the ground through several climactic zones to reach the steel pinnacle. The temperature at the top is a cool 10 degrees below the temperature at the foot of the tower.
In Dubai they don’t do things by half measures. The unveiling, so to speak, of the world’s tallest building was accompanied by all the glitz and glamour that we have come to expect of Dubai. The show consisted of fireworks, laser light beams, choreographed water displays, light and sound effects , all accompanied by a music score specifically written for the Burj. In all 868 high powered stroboscopic lights were strategically placed all the way to the top, over the façade of the Burj. The fireworks that were set off lasted only fifteen minutes but took three years of meticulous planning and two months of hard and dangerous work to execute.
The architect of the building is Adrian Smith of Chicago who has designed other well known structures like Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai and the Rowes Wharf in Boston. The project design and structural engineering of the building was handled by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, with offices in Chicago and London. The overall project execution was handled by Samsung of Korea which has also built the Taipei 101 – the erstwhile tallest building in the world.
The Y shaped design and tapering structure of the Burj Khalifa is inspired by a desert flower – Hymenocallis or desert lily. This Y shape and the unprecedented height of the tower also necessitated the creation of a new structural system which the engineers called “the buttressed core” which consists of a hexagonal core reinforced by three buttresses forming the Y. This system provides lateral support and prevents the building from twisting. The buttressed core structure reminds you of the keystone and flying buttresses used to take the lateral thrust of the heavy arches in Gothic architecture.
The Burj Khalifa is loacated very aesthetically in the middle of The Park which is an 11 hectare oasis at the foot of the towering structure. The Park has six wondrous water features including the Dubai Fountain whose water jets can shoot upto 50 storeys high, along with lush lawns and gardens with colourful flowering trees and palm fringed walkways. One of the interesting ‘green’ features of Burj Khalifa is its one-of-its kind condensate collection system, which gathers the condensation from the tower’s cooling system and uses this water to irrigate the Park gardens. An estimated 15 million gallons of water will be so generated and recycled annually.
Up to 35,000 people at a time can be housed in the Burj Khalifa complex. In fact, Burj Khalifa will be home to over 12,000 people. It is a multipurpose building with the 6-Star Armani Hotel, restaurants, swimming pools (including the highest in the world), hundreds of residence apartments and corporate offices. Its elevators run at a dizzying speed of 10 m / sec or 36 kms / hour.
The opening ceremony which was attended by 6000 invitees and tens of thousands of spectators in and around strategic points in Dubai, had a really wow finish when Sheikh Mohammad the Ruler of Dubai named the building as Burj Khalifa bin Zayed, after the President of UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan.
Till the evening of Jan 4 2010 the building was known to the entire world as Burj Dubai. The official website of this building is still www.burjdubai.com but it got a new name that night. In some ways the new name sparked of as much amazement that evening as the building itself.
With the birth of The Burj Khalifa, it seems to me that talk about the debts and bailout funds in Dubai is rather short sighted. It appears more like a knee jerk reaction than a studied thought. When you look at UAE as a nation, you must remember that it came into being a mere 38 years ago. To reach such heights and to create such global awareness, to bring into existence global landmarks like the Palm and Burj Khalifa, to create an economy that is still attracting the best talent from all over the world, all this in a mere 38 years is no mean feat, for any country.
Even if any deals or arrangements may have been struck internally, they are surely not for us to pry into. When any family is in crisis it takes some decisions to protect the family as a whole. It is not fitting for outsiders to comment and criticize, to dissect and decry the actions of the family or its members and to gossip idly and draw inane conclusions from these actions. The developments in UAE of late and in the last few years present, in my viewpoint at least, a picture of a family working in competition well as collaboration. Of late it has been the picture of a family closing ranks in the face of a crisis.
At the end of the day, this is the UNITED Arab Emirates. There has been no sign of discord within this nation since its birth.
So if Burj Dubai is named as Burj Khalifa out of respect for the patriarch of the Federation, why should it cause any ripple? After all, that which we call Burj Khalifa, by any other name, would stand as tall.
Vibhas Tattu hails from India and is a manufacturing engineer by profession. He has worked in India, USA and now in the United Arab Emirates. Vibhas is interested in Shakespeare, Indian music, poetry (English, Hindi and Marathi) and a new found love of writing.
Tattu has a bachelor’s degree in Production Engineering from the University of Bombay and Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from the University of California at Berkeley, where he was a Fellow.